I enjoyed George F. Will’s Men at Work when I read it a few years back, so I was excited to see his new book on baseball, entitled, A Nice Little Place on the North Side: Wrigley Field at One Hundred. I finished the book this morning.
The book delighted me!
I describe this latest piece by Will as a book about the architecture of baseball, a theme he touches on from the very first quote in the book. What I mean by architecture is not the buildings or stadiums in which the game is played, but the superstructure of the game itself, the supporting components, in the context of the Chicago Cubs. The biggest of these supporting components is, of course, the fans themselves. The stadium is part of it, too, but there is much more. Concessions, radio, television, the lights in the stadium, everything that affects the game, but is not really the game itself.
The book contains the story of the Chicago Cubs, their triumphs (few) and struggles (many) over the last century. But it also wanders of the path to explore wonderful little trails often obscured by the game itself: for instance, the relationship between beer consumption and baseball.
Within the pages, Will provides plenty of humor, much of it at the Cubs expense (“Most teams call an 0-30 record terrible. The Cubs call it April.”), but without malice. Instead, he is attempting to communicate the frustration that generations of Cubs fans have experienced in their unfulfilled hopes of a world championship.
The book is much less about the action of the game of baseball and much more about what makes it the sport that it is, and has been, for over 150 years. It is a delightful read and one of the best baseball books that I’ve come across, accessible to the casual fan and the true fanatic alike.